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Volume 7 No. 149

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The National Rugby League "won its battle to more thoroughly regulate player managers under a new accreditation scheme" after agents chose not to proceed with their threat to seek a Supreme Court injunction to prevent its introduction, according to Adrian Proszenko of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. About 110 accredited agents have until Friday to commit to the new protocols "or be refused the right to represent players or negotiate with clubs." Some of the game’s most powerful "six-and-a-half percenters" had assembled a "fighting fund" with a view to proceeding with legal action. However, there was "not enough support for that action among the group, effectively extinguishing the opposition to the NRL’s bid to make managers more accountable." The governing body had "already placated many of the more vocal objectors during a period of consultation." One of the biggest concerns was that the NRL would reopen the Parramatta and Manly salary cap cases and "potentially punish agents for their roles in them." However, Rugby League Central will not be revisiting either matter and wrote to inform a handful of concerned agents that "they would not be pursued over their alleged involvement." The new scheme "puts the onus on managers to properly service players" by giving the latter "an out" if they are not happy with their representation. While there is no time limit on management agreements, "players can seek a release any time after two years," so long as three months' notice is given (SMH, 12/8).

Three world-class swimmers filed a lawsuit in the U.S., "challenging what they allege is the monopoly world governing body FINA has over the control of international competitions," according to Gene Cherry of REUTERS. The lawsuit, brought on behalf of three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Katinka Hosszu of Hungary and U.S. world champions Tom Shields and Michael Andrew, followed the cancellation of a new professional swimming event scheduled for Dec. 20-21 in Turin. The lawsuit, which the trio said was filed "on behalf of elite swimmers around the world," said, "FINA's insistence that the world's best swimmers may compete only on FINA's terms and its efforts to enforce that rule are nakedly anti-competitive." The Italian federation said that FINA had threatened sanctions against those swimmers taking part in the event, which was put together by organizers of the Int'l Swimming League (REUTERS, 12/9). In London, Craig Lord reported the ISL, run by Ukraine power-sector tycoon Konstantin Grigorishin, intends to test FINA under anti-trust laws in the U.S. Similar action "is planned in Europe," and it is believed Grigorishin and his representatives are talking to senior figures in athletics with a view to "challenges beyond the pool." Britain’s Adam Peaty and a host of other Olympic swimming champions and world-record holders are "due to meet Grigorishin and lawyers for the ISL to discuss the next moves." Peaty backed the legal case lodged with the North California District Court late on Friday with details of how FINA, a "non-profit" organization that recently spent $22M on a new HQ in Lausanne, took in $118M in '17 but spent only 12.5% of that on prize money for all athletes across five Olympic sports. Peaty: "And a lot of that [$118M] was paid into non-prestigious 'World Cups' which most of the best athletes don't attend and in return do not grow the sport at all." ISL legal documents reveal that FINA leaders asked for $50M in return for "approval." That has "angered many" within the organization, whose leadership is wedded to a financial model that pays around 5% of revenue to swimmers and a "far greater amount in support of the world’s biggest sports bureaucracy." The ISL has pledged that 50% of all league revenue will go to swimmers (LONDON TIMES, 12/8).

Radical proposals to turn Premiership Rugby into a two-league conference system have been made by interim Rugby Football Union CEO Nigel Melville. The structure would involve two leagues of eight teams, which come together for a Grand Final playoff. The A League "could be scrapped and fewer games would ease the workload on players." The NFL, Super Rugby and the Pro14 already operate under a similar format and Melville said, "A conference structure with two eights would give you a true geographic spread. We have looked at it before" (London DAILY MAIL, 12/8).

The Rugby Australia board will go into a high-stakes meeting on Monday "armed with a detailed high performance review" that includes mixed player feedback on the test environment under Wallabies Manager Michael Cheika. The review, authored by High Performance Manager Ben Whitaker, was circulated to the entire board ahead of their meeting. It is understood to contain a detailed season review and a large section of player feedback (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 12/9).

The England & Wales Cricket Board issued a "very strong reminder" of the values "at the heart of the national game amid desperate efforts to rebuild the spot's standing" after the Ben Stokes saga. Players now face "strict rules around drinking and are subject to an ongoing midnight curfew after the ugly scenes outside a Bristol nightclub last year caused untold damage to the national team's global reputation" (London TELEGRAPH, 12/7).

Mercedes Formula 1 Team Principal Toto Wolff said that rule changes could give every F1 team "a chance to pull off a surprise next season." He said, "It is almost like 2009 where Brawn identified the double diffuser. I think there could be teams that have found loopholes, that others didn't spot, that could make the difference" (REUTERS, 12/7).